Croatian farmers press protests over lost subsidies

Reuters News
Posted: Aug 13, 2013 7:19 AM

ZAGREB (Reuters) - Croatian farmers said on Tuesday they would press protests to demand the government pay them 600 million kuna ($105.83 million) in lost subsidies, cut in a budget crunch to meet deficit targets set by the European Union.

The farmers said they would continue to block roads in eastern Croatia after talks on Monday with the agriculture and finance ministers failed. The ministers said there was no money in the budget for more subsidies and denied there were any overdue subsidies to be paid out.

"We will continue with protests and we want to meet the prime minister and the Croatian president for further talks," said Matija Brlosic, a protest organizer.

Zvonko Pipic, another organizer, apologized to those Croats who would get caught up in the blockades, but said: "we are forced to do this."

The protest organizers said there were more than 1,000 tractors on the roads and more would come, but the agriculture ministry said there were only a few hundred and that the majority of farmers did not want to join the blockades.

Finance Minister Slavko Linic said Croatia had to rein in spending. "The country's public debt is at 190 billion kuna and we cannot afford to increase it further," he said after the talks.

The former Yugoslav republic joined the European Union on July 1 and is under pressure to tame its high public debt - already around 60 percent of gross domestic product - and reduce a budget gap projected to reach 3.4 percent of GDP this year.

(Reporting by Igor Ilic, editing by Elizabeth Piper)